Washington Post columnist Helaine Olen wrote a recent opinion piece titled Vanishing phone customer service is driving us all insane that rang true for my family. She notes various examples in which she has become frustrated because these days it is very difficult to reach an actual live person. “It shouldn’t be this hard to speak to a human. But increasingly, companies large and small are making it difficult to access a real, live person when help is needed.”
In many cases, the first automated line is: “Our menus have changed so please listen carefully.” Rather than signify any recent changes, I think companies hope people will listen more carefully and be less frustrated with this language up front.
Although companies say that the automation is what customers want, I’m not so sure. If I just need the hours of operation for the business I’m calling, it may be more efficient to have the automation. However, if I’m having a problem, reaching a customer service representative is usually the only way to get it resolved. In many instances, one can go through 5 or 6 menu options only to get the dreaded disconnection.
Although I saw this article on Monday, I came back to it today because of personal experience. My family is travelling to the UK later this month. In January, my wife, Jen, submitted a passport renewal application online with expedited service. The site stated that it would take 3 to 5 weeks. It’s now week 10 and still no passport. She called on Tuesday because the website says to call only when your trip is within 14 days. She had to call over 20 times before she got through. When she finally talked to a person, she was told that our trip was exactly 14 days from then and to get help, you need to call when it is under 14 days. Fine. She called back yesterday. Again, after multiple calls, she finally got through and was put on hold. The classical music while on hold seems calming in the beginning. Then, every five minutes, her self-esteem got a boost when the recording reminds her that she is important to them. In fact, she heard how important she is 102 times. She was on hold for eight hours. When she finally spoke to the customer service representative, he told her that he would send a message to the passport office to tell them she was travelling soon. I wonder how they help the unimportant people.
Jen’s experience this week definitely caught my attention, but what I learned most is that Jen is incredibly patient and that I can learn a lot from her. Ultimately, after eight hours on hold she is still not sure that she’ll have her passport in time for our trip.
Take care and stay safe.
A tale of two legendary revolutionaries and their journey far away from home. After their journey they return home to start fighting back against British colonialists in the 1920s.